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Australian art

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Portrait of Mrs Alexander Spark



Maurice Felton

England, Australia

1803 - 30 Mar 1842


Naval surgeon Maurice Felton (1803-42) gained considerable acclaim from his secondary pursuit, painting landscapes and society portraits. Unfortunately his Australian career was short lived, due to his untimely death from unrecorded causes less than four years after his arrival in Sydney.

This portrait is one of the artist’s finest. Its subject, Frances Maria Spark, was the wife of successful merchant and art patron Alexander Brodie Spark, who commissioned this portrait shortly after their marriage. Mrs Spark was a woman of substance in colonial society, residing with her husband at Tempe House, the John Verge (1782-1861) designed house on the Cooks River, south of Sydney.

This original frame was commissioned by Mr Sparks from Solomon Lewis in 1840, and was restored in 2008. The gilded surface is mostly original.


Other Title

Mrs Alexander Sparke



Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas


142.5 x 114.0 cm stretcher; 177.5 x 150.5 x 13.0 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed l.r. on upper spine of book, yellow oil "M FELTON".
Dated l.r. on lower spine of book, yellow oil "1840".


Purchased 1974


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Maurice Felton

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 8 publications


Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 105 (colour illus.).

Alexandra Joel, Parade: The story of fashion in Australia, 'The Colonial Years', pg. 1-17, Pymble, 1998, 16 (colour illus.), 17.

Joan Kerr, The artist and the patron - aspects of Colonial art in New South Wales, 'Views, visages, invisibility', pg. 15-24, Sydney, 1988, 64, 65 (colour illus.), 66. 43

David Lawton, Siglo, Tasmania, 1995, 20 (illus.).

Mark Matheson, Heritage, 'Art in Arcadia', pg. 9-16, 40., Sydney, 1998, inside front cover (colour illus.), 13 (illus.).

Mark Matheson, Reflections: the National Trust Quarterly, 'Tempe House. Buried alive?', pg. 8-9, Sydney, Feb 2001-Apr 2001, 8 (colour illus.).

Margaret Maynard, Fashioned from Penury Dress as Cultural Practice in Colonial Australia, 55 (illus.). 11

Colleen Morris, Lost gardens of Sydney, 'Allusions to the picturesques', pg. 557-72, Sydney, 2008, 70 (colour illus.).